Through over 100 years of history, Real Madrid has become one of the most recognizable names in world football. But how did they get there? In partnership with Howler magazine, The Center Circle is embarking on a multi-part journey from the roots of this historic club to the Cristiano Ronaldo era it enjoys today. If you consider yourself a Real fan, or really just a soccer fan in general, this is for you. Finally, do you see that “Hala Madrid” graphic right above this? You can click on that to open up Howler’s incredible Real Madrid timeline, replete with informative tidbits, pictures, and some cool graphics. Scroll through each section, zoom in to read, and enjoy.
Part II: Growing Pains
The period from 1910 to the end of the 1920’s were barren years for Madrid in terms of sporting success. The team won the Copa del Rey in 1917 and lost in a few finals, but, by and large, the talent on hand failed to light the hearts aflame. At the time, the best player in Spain was Rafael “Pichichi” Aranzadi, the star striker for Athletic Bilbao. Meanwhile, Madrid could only count on future President Santiago Bernabeu, dependable Ricardo Alvarez, and mercurial forward Rene Petit. Despite a lack of world class players, developments off the pitch took center stage. In 1920, King Alfonso XIII bestowed the “Real” (“Royal”) to Madrid FC, and thus they changed their name to Real Madrid.
After only a decade, the O’Donnell Field had grown too small rapidly. In 1923, the team relocated to the Lineal Velodrome for two seasons. However, the long tram ride proved a major inconvenience to fans, even if the players enjoyed playing on the allegedly first ever grass pitch in Spain. In 1924, the team took out a loan, bought some land in Northern Madrid, and then built a new stadium in the Chamartin neighborhood. Not surprisingly, the stadium’s nickname came to be “El Chamartin.”
Things on the field also got better. In 1929, the first ever La Liga was organized. Soccer had grown popular enough where teams from all over the country could participate. In that inaugural edition, ten teams participated: Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Arenas Club, Athletic de Madrid, RCD Espanol, CD Europa, Real Union de Irun, and Racing de Santander. Racing finished last and was relegated. Real Madrid led the league table up until the very last game, where they lost to Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona won the title.
The 1930’s was a modestly successful decade for Madrid. The team made two savvy signings: Ricardo Zamora and Josep Samitier. Zamora had played for FC Barcelona before transferring to rival Espanyol, but wanted a big contract to go with his fame. Tall, strong, and powerful in the air, he was an excellent goalkeeper and well-known name in Spain. Madrid signed him in 1930. Three years later, veteran player Josep Samitier had a dispute with FC Barcelona, and again Madrid snapped him up. Madrid won La Liga in 1932 and 1933, and the Copa del Rey in 1934 and 1936.
Of course, at that time, the Copa del Rey was not the Copa del Rey and Real Madrid was not Real Madrid. Why? Because Spanish politics had descended into chaos. For over a decade, Miguel Primo de Rivera had ruled as a dictator with the blessing of the crown. However, with the economy a mess, he had to resign in 1930. A year later, King Alfonso XIII suspended the monarchy and voluntarily left in exile. Thus, labels such as “Real” (Royal) were stripped off clubs and institutions. The King’s Cup became the President’s Cup.
In the 1936 President Cup’s final, played in Valencia, Madrid FC narrowly beat FC Barcelona. Ricardo Zamora made a famous save where, diving to stop a shot, he kicked up a lot of dust. FC Barcelona fans believed that the shot had scored, but, upon the dust clearing, realized Zamora got a paw to it. Sport, though, could not distract from politics. In July of that year, the Spanish Civil War broke out. And Real Madrid would never be the same.